Taking Music Off the Pedestal

Bernard D. Sherman

in Inside Early Music

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195169454
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199865017 | DOI:
Taking Music Off the Pedestal

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Was Ludwig van Beethoven the first great Romantic or the last great Classic? If you believe the movies or the booklet notes for certain mass-market CDs, he was the ultimate Romantic, the rebel who burst the chains of Classicism. But if you believe most modern scholars, he was “the culminating composer of the Classical style”. Yet recently, some Beethoven scholars, such as Maynard Solomon, have argued that focusing entirely on Beethoven’s “derivation from 18th century traditions” can oversimplify matters, by understating Beethoven’s “radical modernism” and the “overlapping of Beethoven and Romanticism”. Solomon concludes that “Beethoven’s masterworks—like his life—arise out of a perpetual tension between archaic sources and utopian possibilities”. Perhaps it is this tension that allowed even Beethoven’s disciples to put their own spin on him. This chapter presents an interview with conductor Roger Norrington on Beethoven, his views on bar lines, movements in the Beethoven symphonies, improvisation in classical music, dramatic structure, adagio, articulation and phrasing, Beethoven’s tempos, rubato, and the roughness of Beethoven’s music.

Keywords: Roger Norrington; Was Ludwig van Beethoven; Romanticism; classical music; Maynard Solomon; improvisation; adagio; bar lines; symphonies; articulation

Chapter.  12133 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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